The opinion of the court was delivered by: DUBOIS
A motion for the issuance of an order to show cause and for contempt judgment was filed by plaintiffs in 1980. On December 30, 1980, with the assistance of United States Magistrate Judge William F. Hall, the parties stipulated to the dismissal of the outstanding allegations of contempt. With the further assistance of Magistrate Judge Hall, the 1980 Stipulation was amended by an agreement of the parties, approved by Judge Lord on May 11, 1983. Since 1983 a number of motions alleging violations of the Consent Decree have been filed with and, adjudicated by, this Court.
There are a number of motions presently pending before this Court,
each raising one or more of the following four procedural issues:
1) the scope of the plaintiff class;
2) whether individual violations of the Consent Decree may be remedied by the Court;
3) whether pro se submissions may be considered by the Court; and
4) whether inmates must exhaust their available administrative remedies before petitioning this Court for relief.
These issues are the subject of this Memorandum. Applying the conclusions set forth in this Memorandum, the Court will rule on each pending motion by separate Order.
II. THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE INTERPRETATION OF CONSENT DECREES
In 1971, the Supreme Court decided United States v. Armour & Co., 402 U.S. 673, 29 L. Ed. 2d 256, 91 S. Ct. 1752 (1971). Writing for the Court, Justice Marshall set forth the basic framework for the interpretation of consent decrees. He wrote:
Consent decrees are entered into by parties to a case after careful negotiation has produced agreement on their precise terms. The parties waive their right to litigate the issues involved in the case . . . . Naturally, the agreement reached normally embodies a compromise . . . . Thus the decree itself cannot be said to have a purpose; rather the parties have purposes, generally opposed to each other, and the resultant decree embodies as much of those opposing purposes as the respective parties have the bargaining power and skill to achieve. For these reasons, the scope of a consent decree must be discerned within its four corners, and not by reference to what might satisfy the purposes of one of the parties to it. 402 U.S. 673 at 681-82 (footnote omitted).
The Third Circuit has summarized the basic principles of Armour in the following manner: "Although consent decrees are judicial acts, they have many of the attributes of contracts voluntarily undertaken, and are construed according to traditional precepts of contract construction." Fox v. United States Dep't of Housing and Urban Development, et al., 680 F.2d 315, 319 (3rd Cir. 1982) (citations omitted). In interpreting the Imprisoned Citizens Union Consent Decree this Court has always followed the dictates of Armour and will continue to do so. See Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, CA No. 70-354, slip op. at 5, 6, 12, 29 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 25, 1987).
In 1988 Judge Lord noted that "under the terms of the Consent Decree, I have retained jurisdiction over it and proceedings have continued." Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, 1988 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5181, at *5, 1988 WL 59270 (E.D. Pa. June 8, 1988). Under § XXVII of the Consent Decree this Court continues to retain jurisdiction over both this lawsuit and the Consent Decree. Consent Decree, at 17 ("The Court retains jurisdiction of this action . . . .").
Furthermore, § XIX of the Consent Decree preserves plaintiffs' right to bring certain types of complaints before this Court. In reference to defendants' right to alter administrative remedies, § XIX states that "plaintiffs reserve their right to contest in this Court any such amendment, suspension, alteration or modification of the provisions of this Consent Decree." Consent Decree, at 14. Continuing, that section provides that "plaintiffs also reserve the right to contest in this Court, at any time, by any appropriate legal proceeding, any institution or system wide pattern of failure or refusal by defendants or their agents or employees to follow the provisions of this Consent Decree." Id. at 15.
A. The Scope of the Plaintiff Class
A number of the pending motions have been filed by inmates confined at state correctional institutions which defendants argue are not covered by the Consent Decree. Defendants assert that only inmates in the institutions included in the plaintiff class--which defendants assert includes only State Correctional Institution ("SCI")-Graterford, SCI-Dallas, SCI-Huntingdon, SCI-Muncy, SCI-Rockview and SCI-Pittsburgh--have any rights under the Consent Decree. The inmates confined in other state correctional institutions argue that the coverage of the Consent Decree was expanded when the Decree was modified in 1983. The SCI-Camp Hill inmates also argue that the language of § V of the Consent Decree includes inmates at institutions other than the six named in the class certification Order.
Judge Lord's October 20, 1972 Order certifying the plaintiff class clearly limits membership in the class to those inmates confined at SCI-Graterford, SCI-Dallas, SCI-Huntingdon, SCI-Muncy, SCI-Rockview and SCI-Pittsburgh. That Order reads, in its entirety, as follows:
AND NOW, to wit, this 20th day of October, 1972, it is hereby ordered that Plaintiffs' Motion that the instant suit be maintained as a Class Action on behalf of themselves and all other persons who are now or will be incarcerated in the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institutions at Graterford, Dallas, Huntingdon, Muncy, Rockview and Pittsburgh is hereby granted.
The Court concludes that § V of the Consent Decree does not expand the plaintiff class as argued by the inmates at SCI-Camp Hill. That provision, entitled "Compliance With Administrative Directives," reads as follows:
Defendants shall comply with the regulations of the Bureau of Correction (hereinafter the "Administrative Directives") and the amendments and additions thereto.
Defendants shall expend their best efforts to assure compliance with this Consent Decree and with the Administrative Directives and the amendments and additions thereto by all institutional staff members, and all other persons subject to defendants' jurisdiction.
Section V does nothing more than require defendants to comply with the Consent Decree and the regulations of the Bureau of Correction.
The fact that the Bureau was required to comply with the regulations with respect to inmates at the two other correctional facilities in operation at the time, SCI-Camp Hill and Regional Correctional Facility at Greensburg, is of no significance in determining the scope of the plaintiff class. Inmates at the latter institutions have the right to seek redress for violations of the regulations in an appropriate court. Inmates who are members of the plaintiff class may enforce such rights in this Court upon compliance with all of the requirements of the Consent Decree.
There are no other provisions of the Consent Decree which even arguably affect the composition of the plaintiff class. Thus, unless the scope of the plaintiff class was altered at some time after its certification, the class is limited to the six institutions named in the October 20, 1972 Order.
The argument that the plaintiff class was expanded by the 1983 Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Hall is without merit. Magistrate Judge Hall expressly noted in the Report and Recommendation that after Judge Lord consolidated the original four cases, "a class was certified which consisted of all inmates then confined and all inmates to be confined in the future in the state correctional institutions at Dallas, Graterford, Huntingdon, Muncy, Pittsburgh, and Rockview." R & R, at 1. The Magistrate Judge did not recommend expansion of the class, and Judge Lord approved the 1983 Report and Recommendation in its entirety--including its definition of the plaintiff class as limited to those six institutions. Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, CA No. 70-3054 (E.D. Pa. May 11, 1983) (unpublished Order).
Furthermore, in two rulings issued ten years apart Judge Lord left no doubt that the plaintiff class is limited to the six state correctional institutions named in the class certification Order. On June 7, 1978 Judge Lord wrote that "plaintiffs represent a class comprising all persons who are now or will be incarcerated in the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institutions at Graterford, Dallas, Huntingdon, Muncy, Rockview and Pittsburgh." Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, 451 F. Supp. 893, 894 (E.D. Pa. 1978). Ten years later, in a Memorandum issued on June 8, 1988, Judge Lord considered an attorney's fee petition filed by one of plaintiffs' attorneys. In ruling on that petition, Judge Lord wrote that "the plaintiff class comprises prisoners at several Pennsylvania Correctional Institutions . . . ." Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, 1988 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5181, 1988 WL 59270, *1 (E.D. Pa. June 8, 1988) (emphasis added). Although Judge Lord did not specify the institutions to which he referred in that Memorandum, the words "at several" make it clear that the plaintiff class to which he referred was smaller than the entire inmate population of Pennsylvania's correctional institutions.
Although not argued by movants or class counsel, language used by Judge Lord in his June 18, 1979 Opinion, standing alone, might lend support to the contention that the plaintiff class includes inmates at institutions other than the six listed in the class certification Order. On June 18, 1979, Judge Lord wrote that "On October 20, 1972 I certified a class consisting of the named plaintiffs and 'all other persons who are now or will be incarcerated in the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institutions . . . .'" Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, 473 F. Supp. 1017, 1019 (E.D. Pa. 1979) (quoting the Order that certified the class). Later in that Opinion, Judge Lord addressed the size of the plaintiff class as part of his discussion of the award of attorney's fees to class counsel, stating that "because plaintiff class consisted of all inmates present and future, of the Commonwealth's prison system, the number of persons who have benefited from Mr. Levine's efforts in this action is large." Id. at 1027. However, Judge Lord's June 18, 1979 Opinion does not stand alone, and the Court concludes that the Opinion did not expanded the size of the plaintiff class.
Judge Lord's reference to the class certification Order in his Opinion of June 18, 1979 omitted the limiting language of the Order. Had the omitted language been included, that sentence, which is quoted above, would have read as follows: On October 20, 1972 I certified a class consisting of the named plaintiffs and "all other persons who are now or will be incarcerated in the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institutions at Graterford, Dallas, Huntingdon, Muncy, Rockview and Pittsburgh. . . ." (language omitted in June 18, 1979 Opinion emphasized). Furthermore, as was discussed above, both before and after the June 18, 1979 Opinion Judge Lord noted in other Imprisoned Citizens Union related documents that the plaintiff class consisted of only those inmates incarcerated at the six named institutions. See supra 8-9. In sum, the Court does not find that the plaintiff class was expanded by the June 18, 1979 Opinion in the face of the otherwise consistent limitation of the class throughout the long history of this litigation to inmates imprisoned in one of the six state correctional institutions named in the original class certification Order.
B. Only Allegations of Institution or System Wide Violations of The Consent Decree May Be Brought Before This Court
Defendants assert that only allegations of institution or system wide violations of the Consent Decree may be considered by the Court. None of the inmates who filed the pending motions take the position that there is no such requirement. However, a number of the motions allege individual, not institution or system wide, violations of the Consent Decree.
The Consent Decree expressly provides for the consideration of institution or system wide violations of the Consent Decree by this Court. Section XIX of the Consent Decree states that "plaintiffs also reserve the right to contest in this Court, at any time, by any appropriate legal proceeding, any institution or system wide pattern of failure or refusal by defendants or their agents or employees to follow the provisions of this Consent Decree." Consent Decree, at 15 (emphasis added). Although that language does not necessarily limit this Court's jurisdiction to such violations of the Consent Decree, § XXIII creates such a limitation.
Section XXIII states that "This Decree shall not create a private cause of action in any individual against any of the defendants. Nor, except as provided in section XIX above, shall this Decree provide a basis for contempt proceedings. Id. at 16 (emphasis added). The only bases for a contempt proceeding provided by § XIX are institution or system wide violations of the Consent Decree. Reading §§ XIX and XXIII together, it is clear that alleged violations of the Consent Decree that are not system or institution wide may not be brought before this Court. This Court's prior holdings are consistent with this interpretation of the Consent Decree.
The requirement of the Consent Decree that contempt actions could only be brought for institution or system wide violations of the Decree was also addressed by Magistrate Judge Hall in his 1983 Report and Recommendation. In his Memorandum approving the Report and Recommendation, after recounting the history of the Consent Decree, Judge Lord noted that the Court had been inundated with complaints of violations of the Consent Decree. Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, CA No. 70-3054, slip op. at 1 (E.D. Pa. May 11, 1983). Concluding that many of the complaints were not properly before the Court, Judge Lord stated that others "may well have been either institution-wide or state-wide and therefore in violation of the Consent Decree's state-wide reach." Id.
This Court most recently considered the validity of the institution or system wide violation requirement in 1987. Judge Lord stressed that requirement in his 1987 Opinion, reiterating "the parties' agreement that individual violations of the Consent Decree will not, by themselves, be actionable in contempt proceedings." Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, CA No. 70-3054, slip op. at 6 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 25, 1987). Continuing, Judge Lord cited the Consent Decree and the 1980 Stipulation for the proposition that "the only basis for a judgment of contempt shall be an 'institution or system wide pattern of failure or refusal by defendants or their agents or employees to follow the provisions of this Consent Decree.'" Id. at 6-7 (quoting Consent Decree, at 15 and citing Consent Decree, at §§ XIX and XXIII; 1980 Stipulation, at 14).
Accordingly, the Court will not consider any contempt motions alleging violations of the Consent Decree that are not institution or system wide.
C. The Court Will Not Consider Pro Se Filings
The cases addressing the alleged right of a class member to proceed pro se rather than through class counsel conclude that such action is inappropriate. In 1988 the Fifth Circuit stated that "individual members of the class . . . may assert any equitable or declaratory claims they have, but they must do so by urging further action through the class representative and attorney, including contempt proceedings or by intervention in the class action." Gillespie v. Crawford, 858 F.2d 1101, 1103 (5th Cir. 1988); see also Long v. Collins, 917 F.2d 3 (5th Cir. 1990). Citing Long, the Tenth Circuit held in McNeil v. Guthrie, 945 F.2d 1163 (10th Cir. 1991), that "individual prisoners lack standing to individually litigate matters relating to [a] class action." Id. at 1166 (citing Long, 917 F.2d at 4-5 (5th Cir. 1990) and Goff v. Menke, 672 F.2d 702, 704 (8th Cir. 1982)).
The Eighth Circuit has also addressed this question, concluding that the district court had abused its equitable power by granting class-wide relief upon the filing of a pro se motion to enforce a preliminary injunction that had been issued in another suit. Goff, 672 F.2d at 704. In so holding the Eighth Circuit explained that "for reasons of law as well as judicial economy . . . to the extent that injunctive relief was sought, Goff [the prisoner proceeding pro se ] should have been required to proceed through the class representative or through intervention." Id.
The rule of the aforementioned cases is designed to allow a court to effectively administer justice in a class action suit, without being inundated with filings from each individual member of the class--a problem illustrated by the current posture of this litigation. Class counsel has notified the Court that he will not adopt the vast majority of the pro se motions pending before this Court because he believes that most of those motions are either procedurally barred or without merit. As the class members' advocate, class counsel is duty-bound to aggressively pursue any allegations of institution or system wide violations of the Consent Decree that he believes are meritorious. Class counsel has done so in the past, and the Court has been provided with no reason to believe that he will not continue to do so. The requirements of judicial economy and the logic of the aforementioned cases compel the Court to conclude that pro se requests for enforcement of the Consent Decree should not be considered.
Furthermore, the Court's ruling on this issue is consistent with the prior rulings of other Judges on this Court. In at least six prior instances the Court has denied motions because "plaintiffs had not enlisted the assistance of class counsel in filing the motions and, therefore, had not complied with the consent decree's procedural requirements for the prosecution of violations . . . ." Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, CA No. 70-3054 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 16, 1992) (unpublished Order) (Dalzell, J.).
Accordingly, this Court holds that all allegations of institution or system wide violations of the Consent Decree must be made in Motions for Contempt of the Consent Decree filed by class counsel.
D. Inmates Must Exhaust Their Administrative Remedies Before The Court Will Consider Alleged Violations of the Consent Decree
Defendants assert that inmates must exhaust their administrative remedies before seeking relief in this Court. Although it does not appear that any of the inmates who filed the pending motions take the position that there is no such requirement, a number of the motions do not provide evidence of exhaustion. Furthermore, defendants argue that a number of the movants have not exhausted their administrative remedies.
In 1987, Judge Lord wrote that "pursuant to the parties' agreement and my order of May 11, 1983 approving their Amendment to the Stipulation for Dismissal, plaintiffs must exhaust the inmate grievance procedure established by that stipulation before presenting any claim to the court as part of a contempt proceeding." Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, CA No. 70-3054, slip op. at 6 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 25, 1987) (emphasis added). The Order to which Judge Lord referred was quite explicit. In adopting the 1983 Report and Recommendation, Judge Lord
ordered that . . . Pursuant to the terms of settlement, when the administrative procedure for inmate grievances described by Section I.B. of the Stipulation is adopted, members of the plaintiff-class must exhaust that procedure before filing with the court any allegations of violations of the Consent Decree and/or any allegations of contempt. Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, CA No. 70-3054 (E.D. Pa. May 11, 1983) (unpublished Order) (emphasis altered).
Accordingly, the Court finds that any Motions for Contempt of the Consent Decree may be filed by class counsel only after inmates have exhausted their administrative remedies with respect to the incidents underlying the motion.
For the reasons set forth above, the Court holds that it will consider a Motion for Contempt of the Consent Decree only if the Motion:
1) is filed on behalf of inmates imprisoned at SCI-Graterford, SCI-Dallas, SCI-Huntingdon, SCI-Muncy, SCI-Pittsburgh or SCI-Rockview at the time the class was certified or at any time thereafter;
2) alleges an institution or system wide violation of the Consent Decree;
3) is filed by class counsel; and
4) is filed after inmates have exhausted their administrative remedies with respect to the incidents underlying the motion.
AND NOW, to wit, this 9th day of December, 1996, upon consideration of Motion to Vacate Judgment filed by Derrick Dale Fontroy, Stephen Blackiston, Bobby Brightwell, and John Nigro (Document No. 499), Plaintiff Class Counsel's Response to Motions Filed by Blackiston, Brightwell, Nigro, Jacobs and Fontroy (Document No. 515), Defendants' Response to the Motion to Vacate Judgment and Motions to Enforce (Document No. 518), Plaintiff Class Counsel's Further Response to Motions Filed by Blackiston, Brightwell, Nigro, Jacobs and Fontroy (Document No. 523(a)), Defendants' Supplemental Response to the Motion to Vacate Judgment and Motions to Enforce Filed by Blackiston, Brightwell, Jacobs, Nigro and Fontroy (Document No. 526), Notice to the Court filed by Nigro (Document No. 527), and Notice to the Court filed by Nigro, Brightwell, Blackiston, and Fontroy (Document No. 576), the Court noting that the movants are incarcerated at State Correctional Institution ("SCI")-Camp Hill and that under its Order of January 18, 1995, inmates incarcerated at SCI-Camp Hill are not considered to be members of the plaintiff class, and movants having asked the Court to vacate the Order of January 18, 1995,1a IT IS ORDERED that the Motion to Vacate Judgment (Document No. 499) is DENIED on the ground that, as is set forth in this Court's Memorandum of December 9, 1996, inmates incarcerated at SCI-Camp Hill are not members of the plaintiff class and are therefore not parties to the Consent Decree.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Notices to the Court, treated as Requests for Evidentiary Hearings on the Motion to Vacate (Document Nos. 527 and 576), are DENIED AS MOOT on the ground that the Court has denied the Motion to Vacate Judgment (Document No. 499) and need not consider evidence pertaining to that Motion.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the denial of the Motion to Vacate Judgment is WITHOUT PREJUDICE to the right of the movants to bring an appropriate legal action, in a court in which venue is properly laid, if they believe that their constitutional rights have been violated.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, in addition to service of the Memorandum dated December 9, 1996 and the within Order on counsel for the parties, copies of the Memorandum and Order shall be served on:
Steven A. Blackiston - AS-2977
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania 17001;
Bobby Brightwell - AM-5842
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania 17001;
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania 17001; and
Derrick Dale Fontroy, I, - AM-7513
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania 17001.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania . Department of Corrections
Policy Subject: INMATE DISCIPLINARY AND RESTRICTED
HOUSING PROCEDURES (DC-ADM 801)
Policy Number: DC-ADM 801
The authority of the Commissioner of Corrections to direct the operation of the Department of Corrections is established by Sections 201, 206, 506, and 901 (b) of the Administrative Code of 1929, Act of April 9, 1929, P.L. 177, 175, as amended.
A consistently applied system of sanctions in response to inmate violations of Department of Corrections rules and regulations is established to ensure the safe and orderly operation of institutions and Community Corrections Facilities.
This policy shall be applicable to all inmates and staff in all Department of Corrections' facilities and Community Corrections Centers.
For the purpose of this policy, the following definitions shall apply:
A. Central Office Review Committee (CORC) - A panel of at least three (3) Central Office staff members appointed by the Commissioner, including an attorney from the Office of Chief Counsel, which conducts final reviews of institution grievance and misconduct appeals.
B. Disciplinary Custody - The maximum restrictive status of confinement to which inmates guilty of Class I misconducts may be committed. Inmates shall be placed in disciplinary custody status for periods no longer than ninety (90) days per misconduct report.
C. Hearing Examiner - An employe of the Department of Corrections Central Office who conducts inmate misconducts hearings. The hearing examiner reviews evidence, determines relevance of witnesses, interviews witnesses, determines guilt or innocence, and imposes sanctions consistent with this policy.
D. Misconduct - Any violation of Department of Corrections Rules, Regulations or Policies as outlined in Section VI of this policy.
E. Pre-Hearing Confinement - A temporary administrative status of confinement in the inmate's general population cell or the RHU pending the outcome of a misconduct hearing.
F. Program Review Committee - A panel of three (3) members consisting of the two (2) Deputy Superintendents, Inmate Program Manager, or Unit Manager. The Superintendent may designate appropriate substitutes. The Program Review Committee conducts Administrative Custody hearings, thirty (30) day reviews, makes decisions about continued confinement in the RHU/ SMU, and hears all appeals of misconducts.
G. Restricted Housing Unit - An area or group of cells for inmates assigned to disciplinary or administrative custody status.
H. Special Management Unit - (SMU) A special unit within designated Department of Corrections institutions designated to safely and humanely handle inmates whose behavior presents a serious threat to the safety and security of the facility, staff, other inmates, or him or herself.
I. Mental Health Cases - Inmates who have a mental health stability score of 3 or above, are listed on the institution's Psychiatric Review Team roster, or in the opinion of the staff, may be suffering from a serious mental illness.
It is the policy of the Department of Corrections to operate a disciplinary process which provides clear notice of prohibited behavior, outlines a fundamentally fair hearing process, and establishes consistent sanctions for violations of Department of Corrections rules and regulations.
All inmates under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections are expected to follow the rules and regulations. This section provides a list of prohibited behavior which can result in misconduct charges, the misconduct hearing procedures, and the appeal procedures.
Class I Charges Category A
1. Violation of the PA Crimes Code (must be specified)
1.a. Assault - Including any aggressive physical contact with a potential for injury towards an employe.